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of Movies, Comics and Passion

"All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." says Travis Bickle played by Robert DeNiro in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).

Its easy to draw parallels in this sentence with characters that inhabit Frank Miller's Sin City.

Savage, noir, medieval-style survival stories involving evil villains, ruthless goons, not-so-bad good guys, corrupt cops, deadly dames and so on. Frank Miller's interpretation of style is so updated and savage that the viewer almost fails to recognise the parody or parallels to the noir cinematic vision.

Robert Rodriguez' cinematic transformation of Frank Miller's comic series (ee, graphic novels, as fans of this genre love to call them) stays true to the original storyline, storyboard and noir style.

How true?
Check out these comparisons at these following links and you'll know what I'm talking about:
Sin City
That Yellow Bastard
The Big Fat Kill
The Babe Wore Red

Alright that said, shot, sliced and done, here's a story behind the maker of the movie, Robert Rodriguez. If you thought that 'guest-direction-by-Quentin-Tarantino' was a cheap gimmick, you are goddamn wrong.

He was only 23 year old when he made his breakthrough movie, El Mariachi on a meagre budget of $7,000. The means he adopted to gather budget for the movie is already a legend in itself. He sort of 'rented' his body to medical research for a mere amount and the rest financed by the his friend, co-producer and main character of the movie, Carlos Gallardo (you can also see him in the sequel Desperado as one of Antonio Banderas' guitar wielding buddies).

The movie was written, produced, shot, cut and directed by Rodriguez originally intended for Spanish home video release, won Audience Award at Sundance Festival and was later picked up by Columbia Pictures and released in the US. He also provided special effects for the movie. In the meantime he ended up developing some kind of technique to depict shooting sequences and blood splattering in the same shot that he later used extensively in Desperado and the final instalment of the trilogy Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

It was the first Spanish and also the lowest budget movie ever to be released by a major studio in Hollywood. Robert Rodriguez' studio is called as Troublemaker Studios, formerly Los Hooligans (the name of the comic strip he wrote and drew as a teen for a local Texan daily), is far removed from Hollywood.

His buddies include new generation film-makers like Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater and so on. All these are the same outlaws who had quit Director's Guild of America when confronted with reasons that I'd discuss later.

After El Mariachi brought him to Hollywood circle, he continued his work on the sequel, Desperado. It introduced mexican damsel Salma Hayek to American audience along with Antonio Banderas. This movie also gave opportunities to some of his favourite actors like Cheech Marin (is a really brilliant actor from Los Angeles who plays 3 different roles in From Dusk Till Dawn!), Steve Buscemi (used to be the usual suspect of indie flicks), Danny Trejo who appeared in most of Rodriguez' movies.
Little info on Cheech Marin (born Richard Anthony Marin) I might add. Cheech Marin is a legendary figure being one half of the cult 70s comedy duo Cheech and Chong. Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were a comedy duo who found a wide audience in the 1970s and 1980s for their stand-up routines, which were based upon the era's hippie, free love and (especially) drug culture movements. Cheech played a cholo from Los Angeles, while Chong was a burnt-out "druggie" whose entire life revolved around getting high. They were sort of Monty Python of the US back then.
Their best-known comedy routines include "Earache My Eye", "Basketball Jones", "Santa Claus and his Old Lady", and "Sister Mary Elephant". Perhaps their all-time most famous line is "Dave's not here, man" (from their self-titled debut album).
The next movie From Dusk Till Dawn was his second collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, where Tarantino scripted and acted alongside George Clooney. This movie starts off as a gangster flick but somewhere in the middle of the movie, some major genre-hopping happens and et voila! you have vampire flick! Never before any movie shocked me with this kind of uncompromising look at genres.

Then came The Faculty (a scifi horror) which also featured Class of '98 cover of the Pink Floyd classic "Another Brick in the Wall". Then it was Spy Kids which spawned into a trilogy. That's another story. Once Upon a Time in Mexico didnt impress me much because I hated that Enrique schtique.

Meanwhile(this is one of the most commonly used words in comics, meanwhile), Frank Miller had had a bad experience with his comics being made into movies in Hollywood like Robocop and stuff and he had eventually given up the idea of turning his graphic visions into movies any further.

"Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything."

Enter Robert Rodriguez, a long time fan of Frank Miller who invited him once to his Los Hooligans Studio in Texas and showed him the piece that he had shot, composited and showcased in a single day (The Customer is Always Right which starred Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton) which became the opening scene for Sin City when it became a full-fledged movie. Frank Miller was convinced that his noir-style graphic vision could be translated to motion picture media.

Robert Rodriguez insisted that Frank Miller share directorial credits with him since the movie would have major contribution in terms of visual language, narrative and style.
Director's Guild of America had different ideas and according to one of their silly laws couldnt recognise Miller as a director and so it goes, Rodriguez resigned from the DGA.

A point to be noted here is that Frank Miller's graphic novels are no less than noir movies in terms of mood, atmosphere, style and narrative.

"This is blood for blood and by the gallon. These are the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days. They're back! There's no choice left. And I'm ready for war."

Sin City
The movie comprises of 4 stories and 3 are main stories that take place in a place called as Basin City and the epilogue was exclusively written for the movie by Miller and Rodriguez.
  1. The Customer is Always Right
  2. The Hard Goodbye
  3. The Big Fat Kill
  4. That Yellow Bastard

Spoilers ahead!
This is the story of people (or rather survivors) in a city that never sees the sunlight and rains once in a while, even expect a snowfall sometimes.

There is an Old Town run by deadly dames, hookers who seem to have their own laws that govern the Old Town and the cops are off-limits to this area of the city due to the truce between Old Town prostitutes and the Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) with his mercenary squad led by Manute (Michael Clark Duncan).

Old Town is led by Gail (Rosario Dawson) who is an expert with hand cuffs and rope knots.

All Stars Factor:
Hmmm... well I am not going to talk about all the stars in this movie like Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Rutger Hauer, Jessica Alba, Michael Madsen, Josh Hartnet, Elijah Wood, Benicio Del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, Michael Clark Duncan and so on.

This is about the Chuck Taylors that most of the characters wear in this movie. Interestingly, most of the prominent characters in this movie wear Chuck Taylor (Converse). Kevin (Elijah Wood) wears black ones to suit his sinister character, Marv wears the Chuck Taylor (dont know what color it is), Dwight (Clive Owen) does sport red ones. Is that a coincidence? I dont know for sure. Definitely not a product placement a la Bond.

Anyways, what sets this movie apart from rest of the crappola that Hollywood feeds is the passion involved in making the movie. That's one of the reasons why El Mariachi got such a critical acclaim, so did Desperado.

Desperado didnt have an exciting storyline to back up, no A-list actors or big budget sfx and stuff. But still it managed to raise above the indie circles, the driving factor for such an escalation was the presence of passion. As usual there were naysayers who dismissed Rodriguez as a punk with no artistic drive or something but it took 10 years down the line for him to shut them up forever. And sure did he shut them up!

Those things aside, Sin City is a remarkable movie in terms of execution and style. It gave a new life to movie adaptation of comics, think of bummers like Superman Returns. Where as Batman Begins was a fresh look at the superhero (its directed by one of my favourite directors, Christopher Nolan who had earlier directed the cult classic Memento).

Back to Sin City again, there are no good guys here, there are only not-so-bad guys and ultra-nasty bad guys. Bruce Willis plays his nth role as a hard-as-nails ruthless cop (not so hard but aging), but Mickey Rourke as Marv steals the show with his prosthetic makeup and also beefed up torso.


He's lightweight boxing champion if you were not informed by now, he's also appeared in Rodriguez movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico for which he had shed lot of weight.

The look of Sin City
Robert Rodriguez decided to shoot the entire movie on greenscreen and later the CG backgrounds to be added in the post-production. Most of the cars in the movie are not real. Only a few props were used like the tables in the Kitty's bar scene and the cage where Hartigan is kept. Incidentally this is one of the entirely HD movies along with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Casshern and Immortel.

Note: Casshern is a Japanese flick that is more like a live action manga, it is unbelievable how they have captured the entire look and feel of manga animation to live action using some cutting edge technology and it is really a stylish movie. Visuals are vibrant, strong and dazzling.

The foreground plates were then processed for chroma key, converting to BW and then followed the process of matchmoving, CG backgrounds and the works. There's a special edition DVD of Sin City (double disc) that features the movie completely in green screen background the way it was shot but only it runs 10 times faster.

By the way Kitty's bar is where all the lead characters of the movie meet (not actually but sort of seen at the same time). If you notice for a second when Marv enters the bar when Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) is firing up the dance floor, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez can be seen sitting by the bar table. Creator of Sin City, Frank Miller also appears in a cameo as the 'Mercedes owner' priest who gets bumped off by Marv in the confession stand.

Jessica Alba is the only weak casting in this movie, she cant act and she kind of looks like J Lo in distress, rest of the cast provide brilliant performances especially Nick Stahl with his sicko Roark Jr./That Yellow Bastard role and also Elijah Wood who plays a total anti-thesis of his Lord of the Rings role.

Of course, there's life after Lord of the Rings, you can also check him out in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, another brilliant movie that most people didnt like much.
That movie is a proper acid test for whether you are a romantic or not. Check that out yourself, not a date movie at all, not even a tear jerker but an intelligent movie in the lines of Before Sunrise and also Before Sunset (directed by Richard Linklater).

Sin City has already reached a cult status both with cine-going audience and the graphic novel readers. Sin City is one of those rare experiences that Hollywood constantly doesnt come up with. If you havent seen this movie by now, you are really missing something.
Sin City is a brilliant movie in terms of visuals, narrative and the various other factors that you will realise once you watch the movie yourself, or you already know if you had already watched it.


There are so many things about this movie that I dont know where to start and end. This post was about my personal opinions and observations regarding this movie, I may not necessarily be right in some places. Do point them out if you find one.

Fresh dope from Sin City camp
Sin City 2 and 3 are slated for release in 2007 and 2008 respectively, the shooting for Sin City 2 has commenced last month if I remember correctly, Marv and Nancy are returing from the first part for a different story along with a few characters of Sin City, there'll be a brand new cast to look out for. As you can recall, the prologue of the movie stars Josh Hartnet and that section is supposedly one of the stories of Sin City 2.

Was Sin City a blockbuster?
Are you nuts? Majority of this world population is morons and halfwits, only a few set of people will really love and enjoy Sin City and the rest watch stylized mediocre action flicks with a superhero wearing an undie over his cape. If you were one of them, you wouldnt be reading this post already.

Support good movies and listen to good music. Trash average stuff, media is trying to endorse mediocrity. It is where an entire generation is fed crap with stuff like Sex and the City, i feel sorry for morons who wait up till late night to watch such mindless stuff.

But well, may be that's just me...

\m/

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